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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Community Spreads Holiday Cheer

Most foreigners living in Moscow are spending the final two weeks of December either preparing for holiday festivities or packing their bags and heading abroad.

For those staying, the holiday spirit of giving and sharing seems to be a high priority. Businesses and embassies have been planning parties for their Russian and foreign staff, and several have launched projects targeted at Moscow's less fortunate.

The Israeli Ambassador Haim Barlev will light the first Hanukkah candle on Sunday in a service at the Israeli Center in observance of Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 20. He will host a celebration at the Embassy Monday morning for the Israeli community and embassy staff.

Holiday tidings are also apparent at several business offices, where staff have been dishing out goodies and presents. This past Sunday, The Contracts Group, a British firm, threw a Christmas party for 500 Russian children.

"The idea came to us when were refurbishing the British Council's offices in Moscow", said David Whitwell, chairman of the company's board of directors. "We made so many Russian friends that we felt we wanted to give something back".

The company raised more than 2, 000 British pounds ($3, 000) for the party They bought felt-tip markers and stationery for each child and served a huge cake. The British Council got into the act too, hiring jugglers, magicians and other entertainers for the party.

A group of Russian and American employees at Soviet European Trade Center, an American joint venture, took Christmas to two Moscow orphanages this past weekend, said Frank Rambaud, an employee at SETC.

Employees collected 178, 000 rubles, which they used to send 50 children aged 11 to 17 to camp for two weeks during the holidays. The company arranged for Santa Claus to visit to 56 young children at Orphanage No. 11. Foreigners from several other firms contributed to the stock of toys and goodies.

The company's employees also plan to distribute clothing and medicine donated by foreign firms and pillows from the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel to several orphanages.

"We hope to continue helping these kids all year around", Rambaud said. Employees are talking to several Western hotels about delivering hot meals and basic hygiene products to the orphanages.

Ambassadors at several embassies are also hosting holiday parties. The Italian Ambassador Ferdinando Salleo and his wife Anne Marie invited about 200 accredited Italian businesspeople and Russian and Italian staff and their families to a traditional pre-Christmas holiday buffet.

Britain's Ambassador Sir Brian Fall and his wife Delmar are hosting several events this season, including a children's party with special guest, Santa Claus.

The Swiss Embassy's Christmas celebration epitomized the intimate family-style holiday observance that is possible at a small embassy.

Like many others, most of the Swiss diplomats go home for the holidays. But before they departed. Ambassador Jean-Pierre Ritter and his wife Renate invited embassy employees and their spouses for the traditional Swiss dinner combined with Russian dishes.

On a larger scale, the American Women's Organization hosted a party for about 140 American children and their parents Dec. 13. The three-hour affair began with a traditional Christmas carol sing-along and then a program that included a juggler and a clown. Each child had a chance to meet Santa and receive a small gift.

Children gathered around craft tables to make Christmas stockings, woven place mats, pine cone candle sticks, paper angels and glitter-laden Christmas cards. An array of holiday goodies included a huge cake and pies contributed by the embassy kitchen and cookies brought by each family.

To spread holiday cheer beyond the compound, the U. S. Embassy Community Liaison Office has been helping American volunteers contact several charities who need help in soup kitchens and providing gifts to less fortunate Russians. The U. S. Marines have also been collecting toys arid food for local children.